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Who Cheers for you?

It’s taken weeks, lots of calls, meetings, and late night reworking of the numbers, but it looks like it’s really going to happen. The biggest deal you’ve ever pitched is closing. They’re going to say yes! It’s thrilling, scary, and the rush you feel takes you headlong into the challenge! So you go to tell one of your top team members. Instead of jumping for joy or offering you a high-five, he hesitates. “Are you sure we can handle this? We’ve been so busy lately. Where are we going to find the people…?” His voice trails off and your blood starts to boil. Sure, it’s going to be challenging to get all the work done—but this is why you started this business—to have an opportunity like this is a dream come true, for you…

So you leave this glass-half-full monster (creating a mental note to read him the riot act later) and you walk back into your office and call your spouse. If anyone can celebrate, your spouse can. But that conversation starts off with news about changes with your day care provider, and continues with a list of errands to run on the way home. By the time you finally get to share your news, your spouse replies with “That’s great! Oh, I have another call coming in…Can we talk tonight?”

So after months of work, you are standing in your version of the end zone—having made the winning catch. And the stadium is empty and your teammates are kind of pissed off that you scored more points.

Had the story been reversed, and you walked into your team member’s office to tell him you lost a big customer, he’d be all over that. Your spouse would likely be properly concerned about a loss too. But call with good news, and it seems like no one wants to celebrate.

So what? Celebration isn’t that big a deal, right?

Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work. …at least in the realm of knowledge work, people are more creative and productive when their inner work lives are positive—when they feel happy, are intrinsically motivated by the work itself, and have positive perceptions of their colleagues and the organization. Moreover, in those positive states, people are more committed to the work and more collegial toward those around them. Inner work life, we saw, can fluctuate from one day to the next—sometimes wildly—and performance along with it. ~ from “The Power of Small Wins” HBR May 2011

No, it’s not a big deal. It’s a huge deal. If the energy and feedback that you are getting around your job is mostly negative, it significantly reduces your motivation, creativity, drive, and engagement. If, instead, you are able to get a steady stream of wins; if you can see (and appreciate) continuous progress; you become more creative, energized, engaged, and focused. The feedback you receive—the energy you feed on—is a major driver of how you feel about your work and how well you perform!

So, if I can’t count on my spouse or my team to help me celebrate progress, who can I go to?

Phone a friend

Friends have no vested interest. A new client doesn’t mean more work for them, it doesn’t threaten to make you miss another one of their family events. Most friends can provide that kind of unqualified support and celebration that you need on a regular basis.

In order for this to work, you have to have friends. Friends that you talk to about your business. They don’t need to know the nitty-gritty – they likely aren’t business people—but they need to have heard how important this is and how hard you’ve worked. In other words, they need to really know you and what’s important in your life. You can’t just call them for an emotional pick-up call once a month. They need to be, you know, actual friends…

Who’s in your peer network?

Do you have a mastermind group, a CEO Peer group, or another network of business owners who have been in your shoes? These are ideal people to turn to when you need to celebrate progress. I had a friend who was starting a business the same time that I was, and whenever he called I knew my job was to listen to his latest win and cheer; then he’d do the same for me. A side benefit to this was that sometimes he’d call to celebrate when I was having a terrible week and his win would help pick me up.

Your coach, advisors, and other business partners

A truly big win like this is going to mean that you will need help (your team member is right about this) so call some of the folks who helped to get you to this point, or those who will help you make sure you can grow to handle this new customer, and share it with them. They are sure to celebrate with you!

The thing that strikes me about all three of these scenarios is, as my father used to tell me, “You have to dig your well before you need the water.” If you aren’t investing today in relationships with friends, peers and advisors, then—when you need them—they aren’t going to be there for you. You need to have people who know you now; who know your everyday ups and downs so that you can get the support for your wins and sympathy for your losses when they come. If you want to stay in the game—and stay focused and engaged—those people are critical to your success.

Who do you call when you get really great news? Who do you call when you get really bad news?

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